Who are you, D.B. Cooper?

How do you have a party when the guest of honor refuses to make himself known? For years, the annual D.B. Cooper Days took place in the tiny town of Ariel, Washington, a casual hangout for people obsessed with the unsolved mystery of a parachuting skyjacker. In a rural tavern near where federal agents first held a fruitless manhunt, aficionados returned around Thanksgiving year after year, drinking beer and dancing in the November rain.

But when the Ariel Store Pub owner passed away and the bar closed, the annual gathering dissipated. Plus, a new kind of community had grown up around the mystery, one of scientific evidence and exhaustively researched theories. A new kind of Cooper party, dubbed D.B. Cooper Con, blossomed in Vancouver, Washington.

This year's Con, held November 20–21 at the Kiggins Theatre, packs a bigger punch than usual, and not just because last year's event fell victim to the pandemic. This is the 50th anniversary of the strange crime, and with renewed interest the lineup collects those that have made hunting for Cooper a pastime, job, or even obsession.

There's Tom Kaye, profiled by Seattle Met for his meticulous study of the Cooper cash and neck tie. And Bruce Smith, from the same story, who has followed conspiracies and unanswered questions for decades. The niece of a major Cooper suspect and the man who found a chunk of D.B. Cooper's money haul back in 1980 will appear. Several authors and even a passenger from the famous flight plan to show.

Panel discussions range from the expected ("Did D.B. Cooper Survive," a "Suspects" roundtable) to the slightly more oddball ("Other Pacific Northwest Legends: Bigfoot, Flying Saucers, Cow Mutilations"). Three nights of socializing retain the freewheeling vibe of the old Ariel parties, one centered around the Victor 23 Craft Brewery—named for the flight path of Cooper's plane and serving beers like Skyjacker IPA and a pilsner named after the plane's stewardesses.

Will the man himself, who has to be well into his senior years, make an appearance, maybe even hidden behind a required mask? It might be the only way to top the 50 years of twists and turns that the D.B. Cooper mystery has already given us.

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